This 7-ingredient avocado pesto (without nuts!) is creamy, silky, rich, and loaded with heart-healthy fats, omegas, and antioxidants. Plus, this nut-free basil pesto is also naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and ready in under 5 minutes!
Creamy Vegan Avocado Basil Pesto Without Pine Nuts
Along with plenty of avocado toast, I love using avocado for its silky, creamy consistency. I’ve used it for chocolate mousse, no-bake avocado cheesecake, and now this super creamy avocado pesto! This nut-free pesto requires just 7 ingredients, minutes to prepare, and is perfect for making delicious bowls of avocado pesto pasta and using in a dozen+ other ways (keep scrolling for a long list of recommendations!).
What is Pesto?
Pesto is an Italian sauce named after the verb pestâ, meaning ‘to pound’/’crush.’ It traditionally (pesto alla Genovese) comprises fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and hard cheese (usually Parmesan), with olive oil and was initially ground using a mortar and pestle, but now also uses a food processor.
In comparison, this vegan avocado basil pesto omits the dairy, reduces the oil, and turns to more nutrient-dense ingredients for a combination of flavor and substance. In fact, thanks to the creamy texture and heart-healthy fats in avocado, we’re able to cut down the olive oil to just 1 ½ tablespoons in the entire batch.
Moreover, the combination of avocado and hemp seeds makes a nut-free pesto recipe packed with fiber, antioxidants, omega 3’s, and several vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin A, K, and potassium. Combine those with garlic, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice for a genuinely moreish pesto that vegans and non-vegans alike will love!
Looking for more ways to enjoy a creamy avocado sauce? Check out this creamy kale avocado pasta sauce or this Mexican avocado salad dressing!
- Avocado: Use ripe, creamy avocado for this vegan pesto recipe.
- Basil: Fresh basil leaves will help provide the classic ‘pesto’ flavor to this avocado pesto. However, there are several other greens (or combos) that you could use. Read the next section for ideas.
- Hemp seeds: Shelled hemp seed work as a substitute for pine nuts/nuts in this nut-free pesto. Alternatively, you could use sunflower seeds or pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for pesto without nuts. Though, the flavor will vary.
- Nutritional yeast: To provide a cheesy, umami flavor to take the place of Parmesan cheese in this dairy-free pesto.
- Garlic: I recommend using fresh garlic for the best (and most robust) flavor. Roasted garlic would also work, though, and garlic powder is usable in a pinch.
- Olive oil: Use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor and health benefits and create a silky mouth-feel. Avocado oil would also work.
- Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice is best (and even a little zest if preferred). Lime juice could also be used.
- Salt & Black pepper: To taste.
Optional add-ins and recipe variations:
- Other greens: This avocado pesto recipe is fairly versatile in terms of greens. You can experiment with adding fresh herbs like fresh parsley, arugula, cilantro, etc. You can also use spinach and kale. Use just one, or a combination, for different flavor profiles.
- Spice: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or even a drizzle of chili-infused olive oil.
Please read the recipe card below for the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information.
How to Make Avocado Pesto?
- Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend for 20-30 seconds. A blender will also work, but it’s harder to scrape out at the end because of the narrower base.
- Then, give it a quick taste and adjust any ingredients to personal taste (i.e., more garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon, etc.).
You can then either use the avocado basil pesto immediately or transfer it to a glass jar to store in the fridge for later. Enjoy!
How Long Does Basil Pesto Last?
Pesto will oxidize pretty quickly when exposed to air. To keep it a vibrant green, transfer it to an airtight jar/container and EITHER top with a thin layer of olive oil OR press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the top of the pesto. Then, top with the lid and transfer to the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Can You Freeze Vegan Pesto?
Absolutely—even better, you can freeze this avocado basil pesto in portions, so it’s easy to defrost and use as needed. Either use small portion-sized jars OR ice-cube trays and top with a thin layer of olive oil, then freeze for up to 4 months.
To use it again, you can either allow it to thaw at room temperature or, with the pesto cubes, you can often add them directly to a saucepan/skillet to reheat (be careful as ice pops and sizzles when it comes in contact with a hot pan).
This nut-free avocado pesto is a highly versatile condiment and addition to many dishes, including:
- Pasta: The OG ‘avocado pesto pasta’ had to be on the list (especially with plenty of cherry tomatoes). Mix it into warm and cold (avocado pesto pasta salad) dishes, as well as gnocchi. You could also mix a little into creamy sauces like vegan Mac and Cheese, Alfredo sauce, or even the white sauce in lasagna, etc. For a lower-carb meal, serve it over zucchini noodles.
- Sandwiches/wraps: Spread a thin layer of pesto for tons of flavor. I love it in vegan grilled cheese sandwiches. You can also spread it over bagels, burgers, or crostini/bruschetta.
- Pizza: Drizzle or dollop pesto over Neapolitan pizza, calzone, etc.
- Sauces/dips: Add a little dairy-free milk to make a simple avocado pesto sauce or mix it into dressings, hummus, or creamy dips, like a dairy-free yogurt or ‘cheese’-based dip.
- Soup: Pesto makes for a fantastic mix in or garnish to creamy soups like roasted cauliflower soup, pumpkin soup, carrot ginger soup, creamy pasta soup, etc.
- Grains: Add a small amount of this avocado basil pesto to boost the flavor of any grain-based side like rice, bulgur, farro, couscous, quinoa, etc.
- Vegetables: You can drizzle avocado pesto sauce over roasted/grilled vegetables for extra flavor. Asparagus and broccoli work particularly well.
- Potato: Drizzle over mashed potato, smashed potatoes, hasselback potatoes, baked potatoes/ sweet potatoes, etc.
Why has my Avocado Pesto gone dark?
Unfortunately, both avocado and basil are prone to darkening/browning when oxidized. While perfectly safe to eat, the color may be off-putting.
There are several ways to avoid the darkening. First, make sure not to overheat the basil in the food processor. Second, blanching the basil leaves can help maintain their bright color. Boil for 15 seconds in a large pot, then quickly transfer to an ice bath before patting dry and continuing with the recipe.
The way you store the avocado basil pesto also matters. Read the storage portion above for my top tips.
Can I make this without a food processor?
Yes, though it will take more arm power and time and will be slightly chunkier. To do so, I recommend first finely chopping the garlic and then using a mortar & pestle to grind all the ingredients into a pesto. Add the oil bit by bit until you achieve the desired consistency.
Can I use nuts?
If you don’t have a nut allergy, feel free to experiment with pistachios or walnuts. If preferred, you could also use traditional pine nuts (which are technically a seed).
Is Pesto vegan?
Traditional pesto contains cheese (usually Parmesan), so no. However, this avocado basil pesto recipe is 100% dairy-free.
Is Basil Pesto healthy?
Traditional pesto recipes contain a very high amount of oil, cheese, and calorie/fat-dense pine nuts. In comparison, this avocado garlic pesto is far healthier. It omits the cheese, almost eliminates the oil, and swaps out buttery pine nuts for nutrient-dense hemp seeds.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- To adjust the consistency: Add water or dairy-free milk to thin the avocado pesto if needed. However, note that this will affect the shelf life, so it’s better to only adjust the consistency when using each portion.
- To avoid bitter pesto: Olive oil contains polyphenols that can turn bitter if overworked in a food processor. To avoid this, you could process the other ingredients first, then add the olive oil last until just dispersed into the sauce. Basil can also be bitter, so give it a taste before using it – a little extra salt/nutritional yeast or even a pinch of sugar could help neutralize the bitterness.
- If you use larger nuts/seeds: It can help to lightly toast them in a skillet/the oven to add extra depth to the pesto.
- For an oil–free pesto: Thanks to the creaminess of the avocado, you can get away with omitting all the oil from this recipe. However, a little will provide the silky mouth-feel and subtle flavor.
- For mellow garlic flavor: Use roasted garlic instead of raw. OR soak the raw garlic in ice water for 10-15 minutes before using it.
More Vegan Sauce Recipes
- Creamy mushroom sauce
- Tomato sauce (with baked gnocchi)
- Tahini dressing
- Vegan Tzatziki Sauce
- Easy peanut sauce
- Yum Yum sauce
- Keto BBQ sauce
If you’re looking for more simple pasta sauce ideas, you might enjoy this list of 16 vegan pasta recipes!
If you try this simple nut-free avocado pesto recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan—I love seeing them.
Nut-Free Avocado Pesto
- 1 medium (200 g) avocado
- 1 cup (20 g) fresh basil
- 1/3 cup (45 g) hemp seeds
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp lemon juice or lime juice
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (optional - see notes)
- You can watch the short video for visual instructions.Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend for about 20-30 seconds.
- Transfer the pesto into a glass jar and store it in the fridge.
- For an oil-free pesto: Thanks to the creaminess of the avocado, you can get away with omitting all the oil from this recipe. However, a little will provide the silky mouth-feel and subtle flavor.
- For more tips and variations, check out the blog post above.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically
Very cool idea, tho i cant help but think that this is closer to a garlicy guacamole 😀
Slightly similar, but still tastes different. 🙂
Can I sub chia or flax seed in place of hemp
No, I don’t recommend it. You can use pine nuts or sunflower seeds.
This is the first time I made a recipe from your website, because of my diet! It was really delicious, great idea to put hemp seed in it! Thanks!
You are so welcome, Nancy! Happy you liked it. 🙂